Gross failure of certain components in nuclear power plant has the potential to lead to intolerable radiological consequences. For these components, UK regulatory expectations require that the probability of gross failure must be shown to be so low that it can be discounted, i.e. that it is incredible. For prospective vendors of nuclear power plant in the UK, with established designs, the demonstration of “incredibility of failure” can be an onerous requirement carrying a high burden of proof. Requesting parties may need to commit to supplementary manufacturing inspection, augmented material testing requirements, enhanced defect tolerance assessment, enhanced material specifications or even changes to design and manufacturing processes.

A key part of this demonstration is the presentation of the structural integrity safety case argument. UK practice is to develop a safety case that incorporates the notion of ‘conceptual defence-in-depth’ to demonstrate the highest structural reliability. In support of recent Generic Design Assessment (GDA) submissions, significant experience has been gained in the development of so called “incredibility of failure” arguments. This paper presents an overview of some of the lessons learned relating to the identification of the highest reliability components, the development of the structural integrity safety arguments in the context of current GDA projects, and considers how the UK Technical Advisory Group on Structural Integrity (TAGSI) recommendations continue to be applied almost 15 years after their work was first published. The paper also reports the approach adopted by Horizon Nuclear Power and their partners to develop the structural integrity safety case in support of the GDA process to build the UK’s first commercial Boiling Water Reactor design.

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